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Margaret Chase Smith is best known for her independent American political career.
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Politician, U.S. congresswoman, presidential candidate, author. Born Margaret Madeline Chase on December 14, 1897, in Skowhegan, Maine. The wife of U.S. representative Clyde Smith, Margaret Chase Smith became an important political force in her own right in the twentieth century. After graduating from high school in 1916, she worked as a teacher in her hometown’s one-room schoolhouse.
Her career in education was short-lived, however. After a stint as a telephone operator, Smith joined the staff of the local newspaper, the Independent Reporter, in 1919. She was active in the community, forming the local chapter of the Business and Professional Women’s Club in 1922.
Leaving the newspaper in 1927, Smith worked as a manager at a wool mill for a time before her marriage to Clyde Smith in 1930. There was a notable age difference between the two—she was thirty-two and he was fifty-five at the time. Clyde Smith was a businessman and the owner of the Independent Reporter newspaper. In addition to his business interests, he had political ambitions. Together, Margaret and Clyde Smith were strong supporters of the Republican Party.
For several years after her marriage, Margaret Smith served on the Republican State Committee. She left her post to help her husband with his 1936 run for the U.S. House of Representatives. Once he was elected, Smith became his secretary. She handled everything from mundane tasks, such as filing, to helping him prepare his speeches. Unfortunately, her husband died of a heart attack in April 1940. Margaret Smith assumed his position in the House shortly after his passing and held on to the post after winning in a special election that June.
During her eight years in the House of Representatives, Smith voted guided by her conscience rather than just following the party line. She supported the Selective Service Act of 1940 and voted against the Smith-Connally Anti-Strike Act, which she believed would hurt her constituents in Maine’s shipyards. Smith also bridged party lines to support President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation. A career-long believer in a strong military, she toured U.S. bases in the South Pacific as a member of the House Naval Affairs Committee. An advocate for women’s rights, she cosponsored the Equal Rights Amendment with Congresswoman Winifred Stanley in the mid-1940s. Smith also worked on improving the status of women in the military.
In 1948, Smith successfully won her bid to become a senator.
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When the 19th Amendment was ratified, women were finally given the right to vote, and over the years many courageous women have stepped onto the national political stage as well. In 1916, Jeannette Rankin became the first woman elected to Congress and almost a century later Sonia Sotomayor became the first Latina woman to serve on the Supreme Court. And within the last two decades, the esteemable Hillary Clinton has served as First Lady, a New York senator and Secretary of State. These women, and many more, are setting the stage for the future of female leaders in Washington.
Visit Biography.com's Women's History group to explore more biographies, photos and videos of some the world's most fascinating women."
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